At least that’s what my daughter Ava told me the other day. To the best of our knowledge my wife and I have no idea where she came to such a conclusion, yet regardless of where she heard it, she seems pretty convinced. Ava, who is four, has actually been to New York City several times but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t remember the details and I’m pretty sure she didn’t discover Jesus’ address while sleeping in her stroller on 5th Avenue. Maybe he’s upstate? Anyway, Ava is clearly starting to process through who God is and who Jesus is and how they relate to her position in the world. She’s been starting to ask all kinds of questions in order to solve this mystery of God in her life. Right now the big issue is “Where are they?”. She hears a lot about Jesus and God but she hasn’t actually found where they are and can only go on what the people around her offer as suggestions. Even though she has this sense that Jesus lives in New York, she’s still not satisfied. She said shortly after her initial proclamation, “Daddy, can we go back to New York? I need to see Jesus because I don’t want him to be invisible.” During these kinds of exchanges with Ava, her curiousity is met with my confusion. I’m rarely satisfied with any insight I offer her. I mean, how is New York any less clear of an explanation than the often used “he’s up there somewhere, in heaven” or “he lives in our hearts”? I’ve tried explaining to Ava that Jesus might be all around us or that God is everywhere but to her that’s just silly. If they are everywhere or all around us, why can’t she see them. I know we can all say, “Well, she’s just a child. When she gets older she’ll begin to grasp who God is and how to find Jesus.” But is simply getting older really something we should feel confident in falling back on? What makes my understanding that much greater or more insightful than Ava’s? Is God more pleased with my understanding than he is with Ava’s?
After thinking about Ava’s statement for a while, I was actually ok with it. And after thinking about it even more, I actually became proud of her. I guess in the end I don’t really care where she thinks Jesus is. I care that she wants to go to him. I care that she wants to pursue him. I kinda wanted to just drive to the airport and buy a few tickets to JFK and start looking with her. This whole exchange with my daughter has caused me to think a lot about how my wife and I should begin to show her what faith in God looks like and why our faith matters. As a parent I don’t ever want to dictate Ava’s knowledge of God. Instead, I want to point her towards the pursuit of God. At least for now, Ava does not want Jesus to be “invisible” or missing in her life. She wants to pursue him in her way and woe to me if I get in the way of her process with my silly explanations of ideas and concepts of which I have no business claiming authority.
Some may disagree with my current outlook on kids and faith and that’s fine. I’d actually love to hear any insight or differing opinions on this matter. I think there’s still lots for me, a young dad, to learn here. The main question that I feel frames this discussion is this: Can the pursuit of what we are looking for be successful if the knowledge of what is waiting for us at the end is fuzzy? I guess one truth found in that question is that we’ll all find out soon enough. In the mean time, thank God for these beautiful little children, these amazing creations that he blesses us with.